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Lord Monson: I wonder whether the noble Earl will agree that, if his amendment is accepted--I certainly have no objection to it--for the sake of fairness it should be balanced with a speedy reduction in the number of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons to English levels, coupled with a speedy resolution of the West Lothian question.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: It is interesting to hear the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, hot foot from the hustings. That was his first experience of standing for election. He has picked up one or two extremely true points. I was on the hustings myself, though not standing for election, and I quite agree with him. The subject of the reform of your Lordships' House was never mentioned. It simply did not arise.
The question of how to ensure a proper geographical spread in your Lordships' House during stage one seems to me to be important. I shall listen carefully to what the Government say about this. Of course the case for a proper representation of noble Lords from Wales is even more important because noble Lords will be legislating for Wales more than they will for Scotland.
Nevertheless, at present the Tax Credits Bill applies to Scotland because social security is not devolved. The Employment Relations Bill applies to Scotland and I imagine that virtually all that is happening in the European Communities Committee applies to Scotland. It is extremely important that noble Lords with an insight into Scottish affairs should be present.
It is also important, when legislating for England and Wales, for this House to be very aware all the time of the extent to which it might conflict with that which the Scottish Parliament is doing. It will be easy inadvertently to tread on the toes of the Scottish Parliament if there are not enough people here with a current understanding of what is going on north of the Border. We know from experience that it is much easier to know if one is travelling up and down all the time, rather than simply reading the newspapers. An important point is made by the amendment, even if this is not necessarily the correct solution.
Lord Newby: As pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Gray, this is one of a number of amendments we have discussed in Committee which has looked to entrench provisions in the interim House for Peers based in or of Scotland. As pointed out by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and everybody else, the amendment has the great advantage for our Benches in that it seeks to do it not through an hereditary route.
However, I am afraid I cannot agree that the amendment should be supported, for two reasons. First, we do not believe it is necessary. In previous debates there was a discussion about how many Scottish Peers were Members of your Lordships' House and how active they were. I believe there was a consensus that
The second point relates more widely to the representation in your Lordships' Chamber of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. If we were to institute such a provision for Scotland, it would be logical to entrench a similar provision certainly for Wales and Northern Ireland, but also for the regions of England. That may be overprescriptive at this stage given that, even in the view of my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie, there is a strong representation of Scottish Peers in your Lordships' Chamber at the moment.
I was on the hustings in Wales and was involved in a discussion in relation to your Lordships' House. Why the issue about the relationship between this place and the nations and regions of the United Kingdom was not on everyone's lips in Scotland, Wales and elsewhere is that, as currently constituted, this House is seen as completely irrelevant to the politics of those places. One of the challenges of the Royal Commission will be to look at ways in which your Lordships' Chamber can have a more relevant role in relation to the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I do not know whether I am discussing the right amendment. However, I do know that the European committees, which we all agree are an important part of the contribution of this House, have hitherto been dealing with the whole of the United Kingdom. When I sat on Sub-Committee C examining the poverty programme, we considered Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England.
I believe that there will be a period of settling down of at least two years, and possibly longer, while we all work out how aware, for instance, Scotland is of what is happening in Europe if it is not part of the process of scrutiny of legislation and developments carried on in this Chamber. While the whole constitutional situation and the relationships between the four parts of the United Kingdom, let alone the regions, are settling down, it is vital that there should be continuity of some sort. There are many subjects--not defence and not reserve subjects--which are of common interest to all four countries but where the scrutiny, the serious practical professional scrutiny including travelling and talking to Brussels, is still being done in this House. Scotland, and probably the others, will be setting up their own offices in Brussels. It will be extraordinarily difficult to be a Minister in Brussels representing the United Kingdom on any issue if there is not some location where all these matters come together. This House and its committees seem to be a non-controversial and practical answer. There is therefore a strong argument for some kind of Scottish continuity in this House.
There will be a number of changes when we no longer have hereditary Peers. I am all for abolishing the hereditary Peers and taking back all the good ones, of whom there are many, as life Peers. But most of the people who know about and speak about agriculture are hereditary Peers. We will have to ensure that that industry is properly represented in this Chamber.
The same is true about all the arguments in relation to Scotland. It is necessary that the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament feel that they are properly represented in the subjects which are not devolved to Scotland. The Government must think about this and I look forward to their reply. Of course, they may feel that there are too many Scots already. I have heard that argument before. All I can say is that we need proper representation--but do not let us have too many Mackays!
Lord Acton: On the second day of Committee the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, told us, as the former secretary of the Scottish Peers Association, that there were 60 life Peer Members and 87 hereditary Members.
I do not want to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie--I would not dream of doing so--but given the splendour of the speeches we have heard from the hereditary Scottish Peers this evening, several of them are bound to get elected under Weatherill. They already have 60. Are they not asking for rather a lot?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Perhaps I may briefly intervene. I was agreeing almost entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, until his penultimate sentence. My view is that there are not nearly enough of us here. After all, "Mackie" is simply a bad spelling that arose somewhere in the past.
I note in passing the exhibition of a little split on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I suppose that that is par for the course. I understand there is quite a big split north of the Border as they try to decide whether or not they wish to cut a deal with the party opposite in order to get some government Mondeos to help them on their way to Holyrood.
I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, on his outing on the hustings. He was a little unfortunate in the seat he chose to fight, though I understand it was his family seat. It was also the constituency of Ochil, the one where the Scottish nationalists were putting the Labour Party under the greatest pressure. I suspect that the noble Earl and indeed the Conservative candidate in that seat suffered a considerable squeeze as people decided, I suspect, to vote for the Labour Party as the lesser of two evils to prevent the Scottish National Party winning the seat.
Amendment No. 53 is interesting. It comes one week after the elections to the Scottish Parliament and, as we predicted, the net result of PR--the last time I looked at Ceefax--is that we still do not have any idea who will be in the government of Scotland. We are sure that there will be a Labour component, but we are not entirely sure what the other components will be. Goodness knows how many more days it will be before we do know.
It was an interesting election. As one noble Lord said to me outside the Chamber, it has opened up quite a "Canavan" of worms for everybody. We understand that the telephone line between Downing Street and Mr. Dewar is hot as the Prime Minister tries to control Scotland, despite the fact that he has given it devolution. I feel that there is a slight misunderstanding as to what devolution is about.
As my noble friend Lord Gray mentioned, we have been over this ground before. My noble friend raised points about the position of Scotland and the Treaty of Union, the guaranteed places for the Scottish peerage, 16 of whom were elected to your Lordships' Chamber before the 1963 Act, and so forth. The Government argued against my noble friend on the basis that these were arcane points of ancient peerage law which we should not be too bothered about at this stage.
However, the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, has raised a different issue which I do not believe is arcane. It is quite modern and it arises from the position we are in; namely, however you look at the position, there is to be a certain detachment of Scotland from the Palace of Westminster. Issues which were once determined here by UK governments will no longer be determined here by UK governments. I refer--dare I say it?--to tuition fees and beef on the bone. I do not know why those two issues come to mind first, but they do. Other issues such as education and health will all be decided elsewhere than in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and by the government of the United Kingdom. The world has changed and we have certainly seen that in Scotland.
The noble Earl asked that 40 people from Scotland should always sit in this Chamber. I shall not get into the business of numbers and I am not terribly attracted by quotas. However, it must be up to the Government to try to make sure that the Scottish National Party, which rightly or wrongly--in my view, wrongly--has been given about 30 per cent of the vote by the Scottish people and has 36 seats in the new Scottish Parliament,
As I say, I am not greatly in favour of quotas nor of all the other concepts that the Government are in favour of. However, if the Government are in favour of them, they should address the position of Scottish Peers in the Chamber. I understand that the Government want to achieve gender balance, ethnicity balance, and regional interest balance, but Scotland does not come into any of those categories. Scotland is the twin component of the Union--although there may be fewer of us--which formed the United Kingdom. In the future we must make sure that there is a proper number of people from north of the Border in your Lordships' House. Do the Government have any sympathy with this general proposition--not the quota idea--that we have a responsibility (and will have in the future) to ensure that Scotland is properly represented? Would the same apply as regards Wales? Would that be a matter for the appointments commission, for example? How would the links be determined? Who would determine who was a Scot or had links with Scotland? These are important matters.
As I say, I do not expect the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, to put his amendment to a Division. In fact I do not think I could vote for it if he did. However, he has raised an important matter. I am glad to note that one of the category of people who might be construed and defined easily as a Scotsman, but now resident in England, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is to reply to the debate.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The noble Earl's amendment raises a new issue. The amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, which we debated on a previous occasion, concerned preserving special rights for the hereditary peerage of Scotland, whereas the noble Earl's amendment in effect raises questions about whether or not there should be special representation for Scotland in relation to the interim Chamber. Obviously, his amendment, if passed, would raise the question of whether there should be special rights for other parts of the country. Should there, for example, be special rights for Wales? Should there be special rights for Northern Ireland or for the various regions in England?
While we accept that there should be a proper geographical spread in this Chamber, we as a government are against the idea of sectional constituencies. We are against the idea of quotas for particular parts of the country. This Chamber has in the past always conducted business on the basis that it acts on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom. That is the case whether or not a particular Peer comes from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland or Yorkshire. It seems to us that the correct approach is to continue on that basis and not to seek to preserve particular quotas or establish particular quotas in the way the noble Earl suggests.
As a matter of practicality I believe there will be no difficulty in ensuring that Scotland has an adequate voice in the interim Chamber. I look around the Benches at the moment and see the noble Lords, Lord Mackie of Benshie, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, Lord Gray of Contin, and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour. I am happy to say that they will all be present in the interim Chamber. There is absolutely no necessity for any special favours to ensure that Scotland is adequately protected. As a matter of principle we do not think the approach that underlies the noble Earl's amendment is either necessary or appropriate for the interim Chamber.
As regards the second stage, we have asked the Royal Commission to have special regard to the impact of devolution in drawing up its recommendations. However, that is in the context of a fully reformed Chamber. With regard to the noble Earl's proposed amendment, there would be unforeseen problems in determining who had fulfilled his criterion. Must primary residence continue to apply after someone has become a Member of the Chamber, even though the requirement to be in London during the Session might lead to a considerable change in residency patterns? Would potential Peers have to certify for themselves which address they were resident at? Would it be taken off the electoral register? Or by reference to what was declared to be the principal residence for council tax? Problems of that kind would arise. If the criterion was not based on actual residence, would it be based--as the noble Earl suggested--on some concept of domicile? In that case, the problems mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, in describing my situation, would arise. What would happen with regard to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, if a similar amendment were proposed with regard to Wales? We believe as a matter of principle that the amendment is wrong. As a matter of necessity the need does not exist and as a matter of practicality it will not work. With the greatest of respect to the noble Earl, I suggest that he withdraws his amendment.
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